Cristina Ciurli - Deciphering the Genomic Code

P.2 italiano

2018/02/19 - Written by Gianfranco Cicirello
Cristina Ciurli, photo by Anisha Patel,
Cristina Ciurli, photo by Anisha Patel
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As a young girl, Cristina Ciurli had grand aspirations of becoming an actress when she grew up. When her parents enrolled her at the Conservatoire de Lasalle to study theatre, the self-proclaimed introvert suddenly had an epiphany of dramatic importance.

Although her career path took the Montreal born Ciurli to perform on the scientific stage instead, she credits her training in the thespian arts as a major asset. “I may have been contemplative when I was younger but I was in no way your typical shy girl,” explains Ciurli. “Learning to perform in front of audiences allowed me to gain the confidence I needed. I love being in front of a room full of my peers presenting a new study we are helping to work on.” 

Ciurli is senior program manager at Genome Quebec, where the immunologist is responsible for the scientific and budgetary monitoring of a portfolio of major research projects managed by the organization. “Genomics is the study of the genetic information of all living things. It is like a code embedded in all DNA,” she says. “The information garnered from genomics is the key to bringing forth innovations throughout a great many scientific sectors.”

 

“The information garnered from genomics is the key

to bringing forth innovations throughout a great many scientific sectors”

 

The Quebec agency working with federal and provincial partners have made many important strides in the last 10 years. Their main objective, among others, is to procure funds to contribute to the advancement of diagnosing and treating disease. Through genomics, scientists and researchers also design effective screening tools for illnesses such as heart disease and certain forms of cancer. 

Cristina Ciurli, photo by Anisha Patel 

Ciurli’s role also extends to the monitoring of 15 major research projects funded by Genome Quebec/Canada. These programs range from $1 million to $13 million (totaling approximately $53 million) in strategic areas such as human health, forestry and environment. “I truly believe what we are doing is for the benefit of the greater good. It is the next logical step in modern medicine. If one researcher’s project can save one life, then the end goal is on its way to being achieved.” 

According to Ciurli, genomic study has been in exponential growth for at least the last decade, yet there is more to consider. “We will need to advance our knowledge and incorporate new technologies into our growing bio-economy. Canada and Quebec are blessed with great resources. It is only natural that we preserve and sustain them all in conjunction with human health issues.”

The post-doctorate’s passion for her work becomes quite evident with a review of her professional profile. From 1986 until 1998 she studied at the Université de Montréal earning a BSc, MSc and a PhD. Beyond her studies, Ciurli’s experience at Genome Quebec is recognized as having a proven track record of building and developing business relationships. She is also considered to be an exceptional doctoral life scientist with extensive research experience. “My colleagues and I are quick to identify priorities and resolve the underlying issues involved. I have to be motivated, versatile, focused and organized with every research program,” she says.

Ciurli’s zeal and commitment are a testament to the admiration for the pioneers that came before her. “As a young woman, I chose this discipline even though I knew it would be difficult. I was always in need to prove myself, but then the confidence came. It was thanks to those courageous women and men that I made the choice to lend a helping hand to those that will be the next generation of scientists.” 

To all the women marching on the journey to fulfill their dreams, Ciurli emphasizes the following metaphor: “No matter what your goal is … pursue it with passion. Don’t let go. Stage fright is just a passing phase. If you are motivated and work hard, the stage curtains will then open up and your audience will embrace you.”

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